Ecuador: Day Nine – Viche to Atacames to Sua

We all agreed to make an early start today to get to the coast, our final cycling destination, in time to enjoy the luxury of a hotel, a pool & the beach. We were therefore heading back up the rocky track at 7.00 & I was happily singing to myself within minutes of hitting the main road & the thought of a challenge overcome.

Tragedy struck mid morning when an open backed truck ran into John Lyons & Kevin plus Doc Helen & Duncan of DA.

John, we now know was probably killed outright, Doc Helen was hospitalised & very poorly for some days in the hospital in Quito but is now home & will recover. The other two were only slightly injured but Kevin was heavily traumatised as he saw the whole thing as were others who saw the aftermath. The driver ran away but we understood was subsequently caught. No one cycled after that & we were bussed to the hotel to be told later in the day of the death & the plight of Helen.

Most of us subsequently went to John’s funeral in Jersey where we were joined by hundreds of his friends & admirers & there were simultaneous ceremonies at the hospital where he worked & also in Ireland where he hailed from. His family were amazing at the funeral & his son & daughters gave glowing eulogies about the John we all knew & loved – he was such an upbeat, funny, kind & considerate guy who brought light & joy wherever he went. Even at 5.30 in the morning & on the steepest hill, I can attest to the fact that his humour was still 100 percent intact & the fact that he was at the back of pack so often was merely that he was encouraging those less capable & in need of a little humour & support.

The rest of the trip is a bit of a blur & for my part & many others was just an all out bid to get home early, although that failed after a 12 hour delay out of Quito put us back to the original plan.

On reflection, we had such a great group & although the trip was not as well organised as it should have been & we had more than our fair share of illness, we all remained great friends throughout & there were a lot of laughs & uplifting moments.

Many overcame personal discomfort to achieve great things & despite the altitude, the extreme temperatures, lack of sleep, the grinding climbs & the punishing travel schedules, there was little in the way of moaning & lots in the way of just getting up the mountain & laughing, when the slightest opportunity presented itself to do so. It’s the way John did things so maybe like the S&D, it became infectious.

Brian Frith

December 2009